"Old" William Lamshaw, (c.1712-1798), was one of the earliest players of the Northumbrian Smallpipes of whom much is known. Besides being a celebrated piper in his own right, appointed to the post of piper to the Duchess of Northumberland after the death of Joseph Turnbull in 1775, he was the teacher of several other known pipers, and the grandfather of Young William Lamshaw, who succeeded him as piper to the Duchess.
No record of his birth has been found, but his birth date has been deduced from his recorded age at death. Birth records in Northumberland in the early years of the 18th century are patchy. In 1752, he married Elizabeth Hall, in Morpeth; he was described as 'William Lamshaw of Ponteland' in the register, meaning that he lived in that town at the time. The births of five children are recorded, including William, born in 1755, the father of Young William Lamshaw. Apart from their first born, Elizabeth, who was christened in Bedlington, their children were christened in Morpeth, suggesting that the family settled in the town.
William Lamshaw, along with Thomas Gleghorn, is named in the Morpeth Bailiff's accounts for 1764, 1765 and 1766, as one of the town Waits. This post combined the functions of town musician and town watchman, and carried some status. The livery consisted of a green coat and drab knee breeches, together with the silver badge of the Corporation worn upon the right arm. Its cost was borne by the Corporation at the cost of 13s. 4d. per annum. In nearby Alnwick, the Waits were entitled to collect an annual fee from each house, amounting to more than £30. In Morpeth, a similar arrangement may have operated, but two annual payments of 2s.6d. were made to the Waits directly by the Corporation, as well as occasional payments. When Morpeth had advertised the vacant post in 1744, the advertisement commented 'It is a place of considerable profit'. Lamshaw may have held the post until his death, for the record of his burial names him as one of the Waits.
After the death of Joseph Turnbull in 1775, Lamshaw was appointed as piper to the Duchess, appearing in Ducal records from 1780and at some point after this, Thomas Bewick, the engraver, recalled: 'The late Mr Dibden, who often called upon me, had some performance to exhibit at our Theatre, & had quarrelled with the Theatrical Band, on acct of their exorbitant demands & in this dilemma, he expressed himself to me how much he felt disappointed & knew not what to do — I told him, I thought, if he would leave the matter to me, I could set all right,& instantly applied to old William Lamshaw, the Duke of Northumberland’s Piper to ask him if he thought he could engage to play at the Theatre that night; being well acquainted with the old man he readily assented—I then told my friend Dibden of what I had done, & satisfied him, as to the preference the Audience would give to the Piper — in this I was not mistaken, for all went well off & every one expressed both pleasure & surprise at the change.' This account, though written some 25 years later, is the best evidence of Lamshaw's popularity as a performer during his lifetime. Eight years after his death, in 1806, he was remembered in the obituary notice for his grandson Young William Lamshaw, 'This celebrated performer on the improved small pipes, was grandson of the celebrated piper Lamshaw, of Morpeth'.
A later ducal piper, William Green, recalled, writing to the Ancient Melodies Committee of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, that John Peacock had studied first with Old William Lamshaw, and later with Joseph Turnbull. He also wrote to them 'I never knew any other Pipes but the Northumberland small Pipes used in the Regiment. The late Mr. Cant who kept the Blue Bell publick house at Newcastle and a person whose name was Graham play'd the small Pipes in the American War, then in the French war one Lamshaw and myself whose nephew I succeeded as piper to his Grace's the old Duke of N.'If Green is referring to Old William Lamshaw here, his statement that Young William Lamshaw was his nephew is an error on his part. However, an alternative reading, consistent with the known facts, is that one of Old William's sons, an uncle of Young William, was also a piper, but there is no other record of this.
Another piper said by Green to have learned from Lamshaw was William Cant, who had been postboy for Joseph Turnbull, and who was William Green's uncle. A local poet and cobbler, James Waddell of Plessey, in 1809, referred to a local vicar (unnamed by him, but elsewhere identified as Rev. Henry Cotes, of Bedlington), who played the pipes, being taught by 'Old' William Lamshaw, who was piper to the Duke of Northumberland.Since Waddell also states that Cotes subsequently studied the pipes with Thomas Hair, who was still only 19 when Lamshaw died, it is plausible to argue that Hair had also been a pupil of Lamshaw, but there is no direct evidence of this.
A set of Border pipes traditionally said to have belonged to Lamshaw is in Edinburgh.However, there is no hard evidence of him having owned them.
The border pipes are a type of bagpipe related to the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe. It is perhaps confusable with the Scottish smallpipe, although it is a quite different and much older instrument. Although most modern Border pipes are closely modelled on similar historic instruments, the modern Scottish smallpipes are a modern reinvention, inspired by historic instruments but largely based on Northumbrian smallpipes in their construction.
The Northumbrian smallpipes are bellows-blown bagpipes from North East England, where they have been an important factor in the local musical culture for more than 250 years. The family of the Duke of Northumberland have had an official piper for over 250 years. The Northumbrian Pipers' Society was founded in 1928, to encourage the playing of the instrument and its music; Although there were so few players at times during the last century that some feared the tradition would die out, there are many players and makers of the instrument nowadays, and the Society has played a large role in this revival. In more recent times the Mayor of Gateshead and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle have both established a tradition of appointing official Northumbrian pipers.
Duke of Northumberland is a noble title that has been created three times in English and British history, twice in the Peerage of England and once in the Peerage of Great Britain. The current holder of this title is Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.
Here Northumbria is defined as Northumberland, the northernmost county of England, and County Durham. According to 'World Music: The Rough Guide', "nowhere is the English living tradition more in evidence than the border lands of Northumbria, the one part of England to rival the counties of the west of Ireland for a rich unbroken tradition. The region is particularly noted for its tradition of border ballads, the Northumbrian smallpipes and also a strong fiddle tradition in the region that was already well established in the 1690s. Northumbrian music is characterised by considerable influence from other regions, particularly southern Scotland and other parts of the north of England, as well as Irish immigrants.
Tom Clough (1881–1964), known as "The Prince of Pipers", was an English player of the Northumbrian pipes, or Northumbrian smallpipes. He was also a pipemaker, and the pipes he made with Fred Picknell include several important innovations, and have a distinctive tone. He had studied the instrument with the noted piper Thomas Todd, and from his own father Henry Clough. His three surviving recordings, among the earliest recordings made of the instrument, and his considerable body of music manuscripts, including his own compositions, give considerable insight into the traditional playing technique and style of the instrument. This is particularly so because at least four previous generations of the family had been pipers, as was his son 'Young Tom' (1912–1987) – they thus form a continuous link between earliest players of the modern instrument, and contemporary players. In contrast to the widely accepted notion of traditional folk music as an essentially rural activity, he and his family lived in the mining community of Newsham in south-east Northumberland, and were miners themselves. At the end of his life, "Young Tom" recalled piping sessions at the 'Willow Tree' in Newsham, with his father Tom, grandfather Henry Clough, and Richard Mowat all playing – Henry's and Richard Mowat's playing would get more furious and inaccurate as the evening progressed; Tom was teetotal. Young Tom had the job of carrying his grandfather's pipes afterwards. There is a composite photograph of the Clough family at. Here Tom himself is on the left, his pipemaking collaborator Fred Picknell standing behind him, his father Henry Clough and son 'Young Tom' standing towards the right, while an older image of Tom's grandfather "Old Tom", seated piping in the foreground, has been added subsequently. Old Tom died in 1885, and the main photograph was taken in 1924. The other figure, seated on the far right, is believed to be Captain Nicholson of Haydon Bridge, a traditional fiddler.
John Peacock was one of the finest Northumbrian smallpipers of his age, and probably a fiddler also, and the last of the Newcastle Waits. He studied the smallpipes with Old William Lamshaw, of Morpeth, and later with Joseph Turnbull, of Alnwick.
Robert Reid is widely acknowledged as the creator of the modern form of the Northumbrian Smallpipes. He lived and worked at first in Newcastle upon Tyne, but moved later to the nearby town of North Shields at the mouth of the Tyne, probably in 1802. North Shields was a busy port at this time. The Reids were a family with a long-standing connection to piping; Robert's father Robert Reed (sic), a cabinet maker, had been a player of the Northumbrian big-pipes, and an associate of James Allan, his son Robert was described later by James Fenwick as a beautiful player as well as maker of smallpipes, while Robert's son James (1814–1874) joined his father in the business. Robert died in North Shields on the 13th or 14 January 1837, and his death notice in the Newcastle Journal referred to him as a "piper, and as a maker of such instruments is known from the peer to the peasant, for the quality of their tone, and elegance of finish". He is buried in the graveyard of Christ Church, North Shields. His wife Isabella died in 1849, of cholera. There were repeated outbreaks of the disease at this time especially in the poor 'low town', near the river, where the Reids lived.
John Dunn was a noted pipemaker, or maker of bagpipes. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Dunn was a cabinet maker by profession, initially a junior partner with George Brummell. In the trade directories, he also appears in his own right as a turner and a plumb maker and turner. His address was Bell's Court, off Pilgrim Street. He was buried on 6 February 1820 in St. John's, Newcastle. His father may have been one John Dunn of Longhorsley; if so, he was born on 3 September 1764. He should not be confused with one M. Dunn, the maker of several surviving sets of Union pipes.
Robert Elliot Bewick (1788–1849) was the son of the engraver Thomas Bewick. He was trained in engraving by his father, but is primarily remembered now as a player of the Northumbrian smallpipes.
Thomas Todd was a noted player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, considered by William Cocks to be 'of highest rank'. One account, from 1890, states that he learned the pipes from Thomas Hair, a blind piper and fiddler of Bedlington, who also taught Todd's contemporary, Old Tom Clough. A photograph of him is in the Cocks Collection, and was visible online. It is known that Todd taught the pipers Tom Clough and Richard Mowat to play, as well as Mary Anderson, known as 'Piper Mary'. W. A. Cocks later noted that she was herself 'well known in her day as a piper of the first order'.
William Alfred Cocks (1892-1971) was a master clock maker from Ryton, near Newcastle upon Tyne. He had a lifelong interest in the history and culture of the North-east of England, and particularly in the Northumbrian smallpipes and half-long pipes. He assembled a large collection of historic bagpipes, their music, and related materials, which forms the core of the collection now housed at the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum. He was elected to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1920, remaining a member until his death. In 1928, he was one of the earliest members of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society, being elected one of the technical advisers, with responsibility for smallpipes. He became a Vice-President of the Society in 1938. When an exhibition of historic pipes was held in the Black Gate Museum in 1961, most of the exhibits were from Cocks's collection.
Old Tom Clough, was an English player of the Northumbrian pipes, or Northumbrian smallpipes. He was born into a family of miners who had also been pipers for several generations; his son Henry, grandson Tom, and great-grandson 'Young' Tom were pipers too. He is thus a central figure in a family tradition linking the earliest days of the modern instrument to almost the present day.
Thomas Hair was a violinist and player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, who lived in Bedlington. This town, and the surrounding district of Bedlingtonshire, were until 1844 a detached part of County Durham, but were then made part of Northumberland.
William Green (1775–1860) was a player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, and the Piper to the Duchess of Northumberland from 1806 until 1849. He was assisted in this role by his nephew Robert Nicholson (1798–1842), and his son William Thomas (Tom) Green (1823–1898). Tom then succeeded his father as Ducal Piper until 1892. Father, nephew and son thus held some of the most influential piping roles in the county for a period of almost ninety years.
Joseph Turnbull was a player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, and the first, in 1756, to be appointed Piper to the Countess of Northumberland. He is the earliest player of the instrument of whom a portrait survives, in the collection at Alnwick Castle. There is a copy in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum. In this portrait, he is wearing a blue coat, which is known to have been the uniform of the Alnwick Town Waits. From the creation of the dukedom in 1766, Turnbull was known as Piper to the Duchess. The portrait is labelled "Piper to the Duchess", so the caption postdates the creation of the Dukedom. However Turnbull was first appointed as the family's piper in 1756, and the portrait must be later than this.
The Northumbrian Small Pipes Society was founded in 1893, by members of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne to promote interest in, and playing of Northumbrian smallpipes, and their music. As it only continued in existence for seven years, it is now regarded primarily as a short-lived precursor to the Northumbrian Pipers' Society. However, despite its short life, it played a significant role, publishing the first tutor for the instrument, J. W. Fenwick's Instruction Book for the Northumbrian Small-Pipes (1896), holding regular meetings, and organising annual competitions. In 1894 and 1896-7, the society published Transactions, as well as publishing an account of their Annual Meeting of 1897. As well as Members, who paid an annual 5s. subscription, there was a category of Honorary Playing Members. Since the society's records include the names and addresses of all members, of either kind, they have listed the names and addresses for 37 known pipers. Two articles in the Newcastle Courant, in April 1900, gave an account of their Annual General Meeting, at the Literary and Philosophical Society, and referred to the society as flourishing, with 200 members, of whom almost half were pipers. Officers were elected for the following year; however there is no subsequent record of any formal activity of the society, such as meetings or competitions. In 1906, when the Cloughs played for King Edward VII at Alnwick Castle, an account of this in the Berwickshire News stated that the Northumbrian Small Pipes Society had done some good work in reviving interest, but that 'seven winters had passed without it giving any signs of life'. This suggests that the society had been largely inactive for some time before its final AGM.
'Young' William Lamshaw was a player of the Northumbrian Smallpipes. Despite his early death, he was a significant figure in the history of the instrument, being appointed Piper to the Duchess of Northumberland at an early age, after the death of his grandfather Old William Lamshaw. He was active at a time when keys were being added to the instrument, and one of the most prominent early players of the improved instrument. Living in North Shields, it is very likely that he would have known Robert Reid, who had settled in the town in about 1802.
William Cant (1753–1821) was a Northumbrian piper and violinist in the early part of the 19th century.
Robert Nicholson (1798–1842) was a Northumbrian piper and fiddler. He was the nephew and pupil of William Green, who was piper to the Duke of Northumberland, and was later appointed as his assistant in this role.
Cornelius Stanton was a mid-19th-century Northumbrian piper.